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I’ve long waged a personal war against overweight, over-sized digital SLRs. As the effective digital film frame is mostly stamp-sized why on earth does the body and lens of every camera maker’s DSLR have to be so bulky?
When the Micro Four Thirds cameras began to appear I wept tears of joy. At last, a totally digital approach to quality digital capture! And in a small form factor.
Now Panasonic does a swerve away from its pioneering model, the SLR-style DMC-GH1, and delivers to our eager hands their response to Olympus’ first Micro Four Thirds model, the compact PEN E-P1.
To be precise, the GF1 is not a DSLR, there’s no optical finder, not even an eyepiece style one atop the camera — but there is an optional one that fits into the accessory shoe, tilting to suit your viewing needs.
The GF1 goes one step further than the PEN E-P1 in having a retractable flash cell; the Live MOS sensor can capture 12.1 megapixels; the rear 7.6cm LCD screen has 460,000 pixel resolution; internal body optical image stabilisation means you enjoy steady shooting with any lens; seven preset effects — Expressive, Retro, etc; face detection of up to six faces; auto dust reduction; stills and HD video shooting.
The camera uses G Micro System lenses and any interchangeable optic that complies with the Four Thirds standard, via an optional mount adaptor.
The review camera was supplied with an f3.5-5.6/14-45mm and an f1.7/20mm pancake lens. The latter is a compact joy and would suit the needs of anyone who wants to travel in compact mode, adding only 23mm to the body thickness.
The maximum still image size is 4000×3000 pixels, enough to make a 34x25cm print.
In movies, two choices of capture: Motion JPEG with a screen size of 1280×720 pixels right down to 320×240 pixels at 30 fps. Or, AVCH Lite and 1280 x720 pixels and 60 fps at three quality levels. Audio is mono, recorded via a tiny cell next to the mode dial and replayed from a slightly larger speaker nearby. There’s no provision for an external microphone — and more’s the pity.
The GF1 is quick off the mark, able to capture the first shot a fraction of a second after startup with follow-ons about a quarter second apart.
I did some traveling with the GF1, so used only the 14-45mm zoom … this being the best approach to a variety of subjects.
I found the camera a delight to use, with the controls close to fingers all the time. The screen was sharp and bright, with auto focusing easy to control and rapid capture always to hand.
Still image quality was stunning, with a noticeable ability to catch fully-colour saturated pictures, even when the sun was behind clouds.
Although the picky will turn up their noses (eyes?) at the HD video resolution of only 1280×720 pixels, the on screen result is pretty good. For me, the ability to shoot excellent stills and HD video with one camera, was a deal clincher. Added to this is the terrific extra that auto focus could be called up when needed or manual focus resorted to in tricky situations.
Why you would buy a GF1: stills and HGD video in one camera; interchangeable lens capability.
Why you wouldn’t: you don’t want the size or complexity of a digital SLR.
Image Sensor: 12.1 million effective pixels.
Metering: Multiple and centre-weighted metering, spot.
Effective Sensor Size: 22.5mm diameter Live MOS.
35 SLR Lens Factor: 2x.
Exposure Modes: Auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Shutter Speed: 60 to 1/4000 second, Bulb. Flash sync: 1/160 second.
Memory: SD/SDHC cards. Movies are best recorded onto Class 6 cards or better.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4000×3000, 4000×2672, 4000×2248, 2992×2992, 2816×2112, 2816×1880, 2816×1584, 2112×2112, 2048×1536, 2048×1360, 1920×1080, 1504×1504.
Viewfinders: 7.6cm LCD (460,000 pixels).
File Formats: RAW, JPEG, RAW+JPEG, Motion JPEG, AVCHD Lite.
Colour Space: Adobe RGB, sRGB.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 100 to 3200.
Flash Modes: Auto, auto/red eye reduction, forced on and off, slow sync, slow sync/red eye reduction.
Interface: USB 2.0, AV, Mini HDMI, DC input.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, AC adaptor.
Dimensions: 119x71x36.3 WHDmm.
Weight: Approx. 285 g (body only). With f1/7/20mm lens, card and battery: 442 g.
Price: Get a price on the Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 with Lumix G f3.5-5.6/14-45mm or Lumix G f1.7/20mm lens.